Surrounded by sculptures and paintings created by local art students in the Greensboro Project Space, Allie Faulkner sits before an audience of close to two dozen people, ready to share their experience of love.
Allie Faulkner is the author of I Can’t Believe It’s Not Better, a nonfiction book about their experiences in the dating world as a genderqueer person, someone who doesn’t subscribe to gender distinctions but identifies as neither, both, or a combination of male and female genders. While not yet done with the full work, Faulkner brought the crowd together over the weekend to share what they have written thus far.
“The world can be a callous place,” Faulkner opens. “It can also be a place full of beautiful personified poetry. This book showcases the bounds between both and their intimacies involved. With much love and appreciation, Allie.”
Faulkner begins their first chapter entitled, “MEN” about the many exchanges they’ve had on dating apps. They use the TV screen next to them to simulate common conversations they’ve had in the past. Despite starting conversations with a friendly “Hey :),” Faulkner talks about how they were met with responses that ranged from viciously transphobic to well-intentioned, yet still disrespectful. Some of the more strange responses bring forth chuckles from the audience, while other more disturbing responses elicit head shakes and gasps.
The dating world in the post-COVID lockdown era, played a major factor in Faulkner’s drive to write the book. The period in which Faulkner looked for love correlated with their transition and coming out on social media. When the lockdowns ended and Faulkner entered the dating scene, they stepped into a new world in more ways than one.
“We are still navigating COVID, but it was at the peak when I first began my transition and it was all online,” they say. “A lot of the world is online and it can be dark and thrilling. You have so much control and at the same time you don’t.”
The TV turns off and all eyes move to Faulkner for the rest of the reading. The lights buzz overhead and the attendees sit attentively in their chairs, ready to soak in every bit of information.
Faulkner ends with an audience Q&A in which attendees ask questions about their writing process and a reading of the epilogue, which comes in the form of a fable. It follows the story of a bear sleeping in the forest when suddenly the bear gets poked by a fox and the bear immediately bites the fox. The story was partly inspired by a video from 2019 on the internet called “It’s Ma’am.”
“There was this video that came out several years ago called ‘It’s Ma’am,’ where this trans woman was misgendered in a store and she corrected, ‘It’s Ma’am!,’” Faulkner explains. “She does get hostile with her voice, she’s really defending herself. I’ve had some discussions with friends and asked ‘Was it right for her to react like that? Was she wrong? Could she have done it better?’ Most of my cisgender, heterosexual colleagues said that she should’ve been polite and educated these people. But I told them that you don’t know how many times she may have been called a slur that day. You don’t know the pain transgender people carry every day.
“The fact that we’re still expected to have this accepting energy where we are like, ‘Oh you’re being an asshole? That’s fine. I love you.’ That’s an admirable trait, but humans are only human,” Faulkner continues. “We get stressed, we have emotions and we’re allowed to react. Nobody said, ‘Maybe he could’ve done stuff to be better.’ It was all on her. You go poke a bear, you don’t know how many times that bear has been poked.”
Through the process of writing their book, Faulkner says they’ve realized things about their life that they want to bestow onto others.
“Fall in love with life,” they said “It’s so precious. It is so hard, so exhausting, so challenging, but so worth it.”
Follow Faulkner’s process on their Instagram at @llaei_
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